Let Earth Day Inspire Your Garden
BY AMANDA BIALEK
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day today and National Garden Month, we encourage you and your family to plant something together. Take time to reset and refresh in nature. Get back to the simple joys in life – digging in the dirt, feeling the warmth of the sun, stewarding a garden and observing growth right before your eyes.
Although we may be apart right now, we can still grow together at home. Whatever it may be – flowers, vegetables, fruit or succulents – there’s something for everyone to plant and enjoy.
Why gardening is good for you
A little gardening can go a long way during this difficult time. From start to finish, growing a garden has many health benefits.
Gardening reduces stress
As we shelter in place, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the daily stressors of our new normal. Research shows that gardening is a form of stress relief and has a positive impact on well-being.
“Gardening and being out in nature help lower your stress levels. Just being outside has so many health benefits, both mentally and physically. It helps our minds let go and our muscles relax,” says Katie Velekei, Senior Sustainability Specialist, Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Good source of exercise
Finding time to squeeze in a workout can be challenging. That’s what makes gardening great. You can grab your garden tools and shoes and burn some calories while you work on your green space. Whether you’re digging in the ground, weeding or out with the watering can to give your plants a drink, it’s one way to get exercise in for the day.
Soak up some Vitamin D
Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Vitamin D is essential for your body to properly absorb calcium to maintain healthy and strong bones. Soaking up the sunlight also may improve your mood.
Growing your own food is good for you
Nothing can compare to the healthy harvest of homegrown food. “Growing fruit and vegetables in your own garden allows you to supply those items to your household without having to leave your home,” says Velekei. You’ll savor the flavor of freshly picked vegetables and fruit, knowing that they were nurtured with care and hard work.
Planting a garden
No matter the size of your space, there are creative ways to build a garden fit just for your lifestyle. Here are some tips to help get you started:
Choose your location
Find the sunniest spot in your yard to start your garden. “An ideal planting bed gets plenty of sun, has easy access to a water spigot, which helps cut down on the time and hassle of watering, and can be seen from your home so there’s less chance you’ll forget about it,” says Regenerative Organic Farmer Acadia Tucker in her guest blog for Rodale Institute.
Plan your garden beds
Decide whether you want to build a raised garden bed or create an in-ground garden. A raised bed requires construction and installation but offers many advantages, including manageability, plant protection, better drainage and less maintenance and weeding. A more budget-friendly option is an in-ground garden where you can simply utilize open space in your yard.
Prepare and build the soil
Tucker recommends adding more soil to the garden bed(s) from another area in your yard. If that’s not feasible, invest in a good organic soil from your local greenhouse or garden center. Mix perennial foods such as asparagus, strawberries or raspberries in with the soil. Tucker’s favorite is raspberries because they act as a natural barrier to keep pests out. To make the soil super healthy, add in organic matter. That includes materials found in your compost pile (shredded leaves, kitchen scraps, torn newspapers).
Pick your seeds and plant with care
Once you receive your seeds, head out to the garden to begin planting. Follow directions on the back of the seed packet. There, you will find the recommended sowing depth. A good rule of thumb is to plant at a depth of two to three times the diameter of the seed.
Growing a garden in small spaces
If you live in an apartment downtown or have very limited outdoor space at home, you still can cultivate a garden.
Container gardening 101
No yard, no problem. Growing a garden indoors is possible. You can use terracotta pots or plastic and/or fiberglass containers with appropriate drainage holes. Make sure there is adequate sunlight when setting up your indoor garden. If necessary, consider purchasing an artificial plant light.
What to grow indoors:
Take your plants to new heights with vertical gardening. This is a great option for those with limited space. Check out these creative ideas to inspire your vertical garden design. You also can download the full guide to Vertical Gardening from Rodale Institute for more information.
Whatever the size or shape, your garden is a work of art that deserves to be celebrated. Send us pictures of you and your garden at LVHN.org/stories.